New boys rise to the occasion
With Claudio Ranieri’s first-choice right-back Danny Simpson out of this one through injury, it would have been easy to imagine the Foxes suffering a torrid time defensively on their right-flank. In truth, Luis Hernandez, one of Leicester’s summer recruits from Sporting Gijon, was rarely troubled, and he utilised to great effect one of the hidden weapons in his locker- his trademark long throw in. It was Hernandez’s long ball into the box from the touchline which led to a defensive mix-up in the Brugge box, from which Marc Albrighton notched the Foxes ahead for their dream start.
Although Brugge defensively were poor, Hernandez’s balls into the box sparked chaos in their penalty area throughout the tie, but in Danny Simpson’s absence, the long throw may prove just as devastating a weapon in the Premier League, memories of one Rory Delap- the former Stoke City midfielder- coming to mind. Teams in the Premier League will of course be better equipped to combat such a threat, but with Leicester’s strong physical presence in the opposition penalty area it may prove a new way of profiting from set pieces.
Some of that physical presence will now no longer be owed to just Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, but also new signing Islam Slimani. Ranieri handed him a debut in Brugge where he proved himself a handful physically alongside Jamie Vardy up front.
On this evidence though, the Algerian who netted 32 times for Sporting Lisbon last term may need a little time to adapt to his new surroundings in terms of his goals return. He should have profited from a miscued Benoit Poulain back pass, before being booked for shoving Bjorn Engels, who was subsequently withdrawn with a potential dislocated shoulder.
Of course the £29million price tag will warrant instant results in an ideal world, though this is where Leicester fans must take a dose of realism. It is highly unlikely Slimani will prove as big a dud as former record signing Andrej Kramaric, and his physical presence in the forward line was particularly effective against a fragile Brugge rearguard. Of course, the opposition he will face in the Premier League will relish a physical game, but he is the type to enjoy those personal duels in a game and he has every chance of using it to great effect at Leicester. When the first goal eventually comes, he can be expected to prove a formidable acquisition for the Foxes.